Dennis Chen: My Kiwi dream Sandals, rugby and reading to kids

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On some days Auckland Zoo has more animals than visitors. Photo / Paul Estcourt
On some days Auckland Zoo has more animals than visitors. Photo / Paul Estcourt

I sighed and smiled after reading Alice Wang's article "Kiwi dream's missing ingredient". Alice talks about her successful and fulfilled life as an Asian migrant in New Zealand and also of her worries about the future of this country. She has the view there is a lack of competitiveness in all aspects of life except sports.

Being a father of two and a proud New Zealand immigrant from China for around 10 years, my experience in Auckland cannot differ too much from other Asian immigrants. Struggling to survive, fighting to prosper but sharing gratitude towards this land that is really clean and green.

Long hours and low-paid jobs are not strange to new migrants. I once got paid $5 for working three hours without stopping. For a long period of time, around two years, I needed to pick and pack five to 10 tons of steel every working day. One of my strong grey sweaters wore out so badly while I was at work that one day it suddenly fell apart from the shoulder.

Before coming to New Zealand, it never occurred to me that my migration here would be permanent. Just like many young Kiwis rushing towards Australia, it was like grabbing some quick money, dreaming of returning to my own dear homeland and starting my own business.

When I mock myself: "So then, what makes you stay here so long, you silly old boy?" The answer is that my children "will have a better life". It is at least half true.

I do not need to bother myself to queue up nine days and nine nights in front of a top Auckland school to get my kids enrolled there. I just need to buy or rent a house inside the school zone.

My kids do not need to visit the chock-a-block Beijing Zoo with 70,000 other visitors a day. When I took my daughter to Auckland Zoo last week, I found there were more animals than visitors. Outside the zoo, there were still heaps of empty car parks.

My kids can enjoy the nice late-night service Highland Park Library offers. They will never understand the free hot swimming pool in Manukau city would be beyond human imagination in other countries. They just love it.

While they are growing up to be all-rounders, they might take the splendid sea view of Macleans College for granted, but I know they will be fused with the Kiwi spirit of generosity, innovation and success. They will not have a "Tiger Mother" at home. Eventually, they will come to understand how lucky it is to be a Kiwi.

And what are the other reasons I like to stay on in Auckland, New Zealand? Broadly speaking, it could be there are no wars, no terrorism, no drought and no serious racial conflicts.

Personally I am happy that I do not need to "kowtow" (kneeling and bowing to superiors to survive) anymore. I do not need to threaten to jump off a tall building to get paid peanuts.

I know I will always get paid in time and in full (maybe even more, with overtime pay plus a bonus). I fully understand that health and safety is my company's top priority. I do not need to bow to senior managers and directors when I see them at work. I just say "Hi, Grant," or "Hello, Steve." I enjoy the little chat with my customers who, without exception, would say "You have a good day" or "You have a good weekend." to me before departing.

I am still not a high achiever after so many years in New Zealand. My wife and I drive humble cars. We live in a little "chicken box" at Bucklands Beach, still pay mortgages. So what?

If the "Asian work ethic" means working harder and longer, I would say goodbye to that. Work smarter, not harder is what I've learned from Kiwis.

My "Kiwi dream" is now wearing sandals to the beach, watching rugby and reading Three Little Pigs to my own kids.

Dennis Chen migrated here a decade ago and lives in Bucklands Beach.

- NZ Herald

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